Benedek Javor is hosting an event on Anti-Corruption Day
Benedek Javor is hosting an event on the occasion of the international Anti-Corruption Day.
Here you can read his opening speech:
Ladies and Gentleman,
Let me greet you with the warmest welcome, and with great respect for your interest in defending the public interest against corruption, and for the work you do for it in your respective fields, as scholars, activists, lawmakers or otherwise. This day, December the ninth, has been international anti-corruption day for more than a decade, since the United Nations Convention against Corruption has been passed in 2003. The Convention is the first legal instrument that is global, adopts a fairly comprehensive approach to corruption, and is binding to its parties at least in some of its provisions. Sadly, the protection of whistleblowers, the brave people who risk their jobs, careers, often the peaceful and normal operation of their personal lives, and sometimes their safety and possibly even their lives, to uncover corrupt deeds, usually of powerful people, is not among the Convention’s binding provisions. The Convention only suggests to its parties that they consider adopting provisions to protect whistleblowers in their respective national legal systems. Similar is the situation at the European level. There are EU policies, including binding legislation, on several aspects of corruption, but not on whistleblower protection. In October 2013, the last Parliament clearly expressed its intention to change this, in its resolution in which it adopted the final report of the CRIM Committee, and called on the Commission to draft a directive on the subject. The last Commission, however, declined. This is part of the reason we are here now.
Democracy is in crisis, at least in some of the EU member states. I, for one, come from country which is currently taking an authoritarian turn, partly because the decay has reached the moral foundations of democracy. Corruption contributed greatly to this situation. At the core of the democratic ideal there are ideas about equality, fairness, the accountability of power, and the rule of law. Corruption is not just a criminal activity causing material loss to the economy and to public revenues. Corruption, especially if it is widespread in the power-structure, hollows out these core ideals and undermines the credibility of democracy.
Corrupt dealings are done in secrecy. So corruption is not just a matter for law-enforcement, because in many cases it is invisible to law-enforcement authorities until somebody decides to break the secrecy. The secrecy is maintained by the powerful people involved in corruption in great part by the potential threat they might mean to those who, in possession of inside information, would uncover their secrets. The ability of powerful people to crush the lives of those who might want to uncover their wrongdoings is at the heart of corruption. So whistleblower-protection is not just a policy area among many others related to corruption, it is a tool without which effective anti-corruption policy is impossible.
Yet, the legal provisions for whistleblower-protection are surprisingly scarce in many EU countries. Very few EU countries have a comprehensive legislation providing for safe and accessible procedures available for whistleblowers, and effective guaranties that would safeguard them against the retaliation and vengeance of those whose corrupt deeds they reported. About half of the member states have some partial legislation on the subject providing legal protection to employees who come forward to report wrongdoings they witnessed. In some EU countries the legal protection of whistleblowers is next to none.
Whistleblowers speak out, because they feel it is their moral obligation. They do so at great personal cost. As it is reflected in a collection of really heart-breaking stories of the lives of whistleblowers who followed their moral instincts published in Guardian just about two weeks ago, even in countries like the UK, which is among the few EU countries where the legal framework for whistleblower protection can be regarded as well-developed, whistleblowing might have devastating consequences on both the professional careers and personal lives of those who undertake it. Whistleblowers are seldom given credit for what they have done for the public good. By blowing the whistle they usually unleash an enemy that is powerful and has every resources to use the law against them. They do so, because they care for what is right and what is wrong. It should be clear that the law and the society stands by their side.
If there was a progress in some member states in this respect, it was, to a large extent, because of the activism and endurance of NGOs that are active in this field. I am proud that I can be a partner in your work, and I hand over the floor to experts and representatives in the hope of a fruitful cooperation towards our shared objectives.